Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Time To Step It Up

I'm an idea person and a starter. I love the rush of realizing I have a great new idea, and that Divine Inspiration has spoken once again! Then it's off to the races, madly delving into the details of getting this new idea born. I call myself the Cosmic Midwife, in fact, because I love reaching into the cosmic womb, grabbing hold of that Great Idea by the shoulders, and encouraging it out the birth canal.  It's such a thrill to help birth that new one out into the world! 

And then, like the midwife, I'm off to the next birth. Sure, I am happy to stick around for the celebration of the new life, make a toast to this beautiful New One. When the first challenge comes along, however,it's so tempting to say, "oh, well," and rush off into the Next Great Thing.

A series of texts from my daughter this morning hit me squarely in the third eye. I have abandoned some really terrific ideas all over the cosmos. That's okay, generally speaking. Sometimes those Great New Things were just a stepping stone to the Really Big Thing. However, my daughter's texts made me realize that a lot of them concern my parenting, and that's not okay with me. I've started so many great new programs for helping my kids learn to stay on track with homework, to set goals and make a plan to realize them, to take initiative in helping around the house, and to learn to be independently-motivated...and I've abandoned them all, one by one.

I'm devastated to realize this. In all my great intentions to help them learn, I feel now that the only thing I've really taught them is how to quit at the first sign of trouble. My son is a teenager now, and my daughter is crying out for more consistent support. I only have a few years of real influence left, and I am determined to make the most of it.

With all eight of my dedicated blog followers as my witness, I hereby dedicate myself to this commitment: to be the parent I truly want to be, to be the parent that my children came here to have. It's time for the Cosmic Midwife to step it up. Of course, I'm totally thinking of this as a New Beginning, because that fuels my imagination and determination. The difference is that, this time, I'm sticking around for the realization of the project. I hear that's a pretty amazing rush, too.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

A Good Mom

When my twelve-year-old son was home sick, I made him some homemade chocolate pudding from scratch.  I am not sure I have ever done that before, having grown up with the made-from-box kind.  I really had to study the recipe, just to figure out how it’s done, and yet it felt very nurturing to make it from scratch. It felt like something I would have loved for my Mom to do when I was his age and feeling crummy. 

I wondered, however, even as I made it, whether Cameron would like it. He likes very few foods, and he’s often suspicious of the “healthy food” I try to feed him.  Thinking back, I can’t recall ever seeing him eat pudding. But it’s painful for him to chew right now, and he doesn't like Jello or tomato soup. I did ask him if he likes chocolate pudding, and he said he does.  I decided to make the most healthy version I could, since it might be the only thing he ate for awhile. I used organic eggs milk and yogurt, dark chocolate chips dark chocolate (full of antioxidants!), and a high-quality oil. I stirred it nonstop for a solid 30 minutes. I let it chill before covering it, as directed. I thought it tasted amazing!

Cameron took a small bite and immediately made a face.  “Is this really chocolate?" he asked. I assured him that it was.  "It has a funny after-taste," he says. That’s probably the yogurt, I mused. I thought it was an unusual ingredient for pudding, but, since I hadn’t made pudding from scratch before, I didn’t question it.  I put yogurt in the smoothies Cameron likes so it never occurred to me that it would be a problem. 

Cameron pushed the bowl of pudding away with a sigh.  “I’m sorry, Mom.”  He then went to the freezer and got out his favorite standby, a frozen cheese pizza, to put into the oven.  As painful as his swollen glands were, chewing his favorite food was a lot less painful than the torture of eating something different.

I posted about this experience on Facebook, and a kind friend said, "you're a good mom." That gave me pause.  Am I?  Yes, I made a nutritious treat for my son because he was not feeling well.  I have fond memories of my mom making Jello and pudding for me when I was sick, and I wanted Cameron to have fond memories of me going out of my way to care for him, too.  And yet I knew full well that the odds of Cameron liking organic, homemade pudding were slim.  Truly a processed food junkie, he is suspicious of all homemade offerings. 

Who am I really nurturing here? Now I have a fridge full of little pudding cups of homemade guilt staring Cameron in the face whenever he opens the door. How is that serving him?  I know he feels badly about not liking it.  I certainly don’t need the calories of eating it all myself, and throwing it all in the trash isn’t going to make either of us feel better.  And yet I enjoyed the entire process of making the pudding.  Assembling the healthy ingredients, devoting the thirty minutes to careful and dedicated stirring….throughout all of it I felt terribly virtuous and wonderfully nurturing. 

I realize now that it was all more about me than it was about Cameron.  I was doing something that made me feel like a good mother, an image that I hold high.  Furthermore, I was giving myself the rare opportunity to enjoy the process.  So often, I’m preparing food in a rush, scurrying to get it done within the time constraints of homework, lessons and meetings.  I rarely find myself enjoying the process of creating what, if we truly *are* what we eat, is a gift of sustenance and love.  Not only am I providing nutrition that will feed the bodies of my beloveds, but the nutrients they contain will become the very cells, tissues and organs that allow their bodies to function and allow them to do all that they came here to do. 

So I went back to Cameron to let him know that it’s okay that he didn’t enjoy the pudding, and that he never has to pretend he likes something that I make for him.  What I want him to know is that I’m doing everything I can to help him grow up to be healthy, both because it’s good for him and also because it serves me, too.  I like feeling like a good mother. If what I’m offering does not feel good to him, then he can rest easy knowing that it was as much about what I needed as about what he wants or needs.  “Does this mean I still have to eat broccoli?” he asked.  "Of course, it does!" I assured him.   I’m just saying you don’t have to pretend to like it.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

What's My Line?

Restaurant Hostess. Teaching Assistant. Ice Cream Truck Girl. Geologist.
Soils Lab Manager. Attorney. Contracts Coordinator. Store Owner. Consultant.

Over the years, I’ve held a number of titles, some more humble than others. Some were dictated by a corporate HR department, and some were intuitively obvious. Until I worked for myself, however, I never gave much thought to what my title was.

Sure, I was more proud of some than others, but still, I never had the opportunity to choose my title. Business cards, if there were any, were prepared and proofed without my consultation. I never worked for a company with the freshness of a Google, where creativity in chosen titles is encouraged, even allowing one “Intergalactic Federation King Almighty and Commander of the Universe.”

But now I work for me, and I like to think I’m pretty fresh. There are still a few positions I hold that carry the dictated title of “Independent Associate,” and those do come with prescribed business cards. The positions that I have made up myself, however, do not. I’ve been feeling lately that I want one business card that sums up the various aspects of my Cheryl-Pie-Hands world—from the spiritual to the practical, the global to local. Is it possible to come up with a single title that accomplishes that?

This task feels both impossible and compelling. Why does it matter to me so much? It feels more professional to have a recognizable title, I suppose, and, for some reason, that still matters to me. Perhaps it is my years of accumulating credits and degrees that causes me to crave an identity that can be capsulized in a few words.
As it is, when people ask, “What do you do?” I answer with one of a half-dozen of possible, wordy and rambling responses. I can give an elevator speech—several of them, in fact—in my sleep. But can I condense it down further?

It occurs to me that this may well be a common issue for us entrepreneurs, especially as we diversify into different areas. More and more of us are leaving jobs, giving up the comforts of a corporate gig, either because our jobs have disappeared or because we’re seeking more autonomy, more flexibility, or a more purposeful devotion of our time and talents. Looking around my Work@Homers networking group, I see a lot of people who are engaged in this sort of professional redefinition.

So decided to facilitate a workshop called “What’s My Line?” and invite other entrepreneurs to join me in this head-scratching exercise.   I don't profess to have any answers, but I have some really great questions to get a conversation going.  I'm curious to see where this leads and if I will really come up with an encapsulated version of me.  I'll let you know if I do. 

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Live and Let Clover

Over the years, I’ve come to adopt a “Live and Let Clover” sort of philosophy about my yard, for a variety of reasons.  For one, it’s easy.  Who has time for a meticulously-manicured lawn when there are little children in the house?  Two, I truly love clover, and so do the bees.   I’m so concerned about the status of our honeybees that I’m happy to host whatever makes them happy.  In fact, the bees in my yard and I have an agreement.  I promise not to prune away the bright flowers they love so much, and they agree to leave me alone when I’m working in their space.  It’s an agreement that works for all of us.  Three, if a different strain of grass blows in that is more resilient than what we’ve planted, then I say WELCOME!  It’s the survival of the fittest in action. 

Last, and most recently, I’ve been pondering: who am I to say what can live?  It’s Nature, that’s the domain of God, Great Spirit, Creator.  I may choose to do some planting in my yard, but it’s up to the Master Gardener to determine what lives and thrives.  And  Nature thrives on diversity.  If a volunteer pops up, then it’s the divine spark of Creation, and I intend to honor it.

And yet today, when I saw just how many volunteers of a certain variety were thriving in my lawn, I admit that I felt the urge to purge.  A tangle of assortment of sweet clover, grasses and grass-like weeds is one thing.  A lawn full of dandelions is another. 

So today, I attacked the dandelion patch with a digger, working diligently, pulling out as much of the root as possible, and meticulously, not allowing a single seedling left intact.  I felt a real sense of accomplishment when the entire patch was eradicated. It’s a metaphor, I thought, pulling the weeds out of the garden on the day of the full moon; it’s is symbolic for all of the things I’m releasing.

It was only when I went to put the digger away that I discovered the even bigger patch on the other side of the yard.  How had this escaped my attention?  How naïve was I to think that even my small lawn could be so easily eradicated of a most successful and well-adapted weed as the dandelion!

I considered whether to begin work again or to Live and Let Dandelion.  What is it about dandelions that offends me anyway, I wondered.  Dandelion greens are nutritious, the greens being rich in Vitamin A, C and calcium.  It is used in herbal medicine to treat infections. It’s an ingredient in real root beer.  Despite its serrated leaves, dandelion leaves are soft on bare feet.  The pretty yellow flowers are sweet and cheerful. 

And yet there’s just something about dandelions that shrieks WEED, and a yard full of the quintessential weed symbolizes inattention and neglect.  I sat down to work again, this time asking the dandelions what they have to teach me.  “Discernment” is what I heard.  It’s not about passing judgment on poor old dandelion, but discernment to choose what is pleasing and root out what is not, to ask for what I want, instead of taking whatever comes along.  We come into with desires and preferences for a reason.  They guide us into action and steer us from disasters. 

The dandelions say they are here to serve, giving us the opportunity to practice discernment right in our own front yards.  They aren’t like some stealthy pests, which hide in the dark recesses.  Dandelions sprout up right out in the open, popping up their poufy white seed clouds bright, unmistakable blooms as if to say, “here I am!  Look a me!  Whatcha gonna do about it?” Left to their own devices, they thrive.  Subjected to our weeding, they succumb to the digger.  It’s all up to the gardener.  Do they stay or do they go? 

So I dug up dandelion plants until time to cook dinner, and then I went inside the house, willing myself not to look for more dandelions on the way inside.  I know, however, there are more out there, and that’s suddenly quite all right with me.  Truthfully, I like their cheerful little flowers.  Maybe I will even cook up some of those greens one of these days.  And when I again want to practice discernment, when I feel the urge to purge, I know the resilient survivors will be there, ready and cheerfully waiting.

Friday, September 28, 2012

The Prayerful Truth

I was reading an article this morning about the many reasons why parents shouldn't lie to their kids to spare their feelings.  Don't, for example, say Grandma is "going away for a few days," if Grandma is going into the hospital for surgery.  "A lie is a lie," and "what kind of example are you setting?" was the overall message.   

It made me think back to when my Mom was diagnosed with lung cancer.  Was I honest with my kids when I heard the news?  The diagnosis had been such a shock to me.  My mom had always been so vibrant and alive, and I had no warning.  My mom had been hiding symptoms and test results from me for weeks or even months.  I'm still not sure how long she knew before I did.  She never did tell me, in fact.  I heard it from the oncology nurse who called to report the results of the scans, without realizing I didn't even know why she'd had them.

Her lung cancer was the most difficult type to treat: small cell lung cancer.  It was well advanced (extensive stage), and so her prognosis so bleak: maybe a month without treatment, maybe 6 to 12 months with treatment.  I did my independent research and every report I found said the same thing.  I found not one shred of scientific evidence for hope, and so I believed, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that she would die in a short time frame.  My mother never did believe it, however. She insisted, right up to the day she went into hospice care, that she would beat this thing.

So what did I tell my children and when did I tell them? While my memories of specific, heart-wrenching events are clear and sharp, my memories of whatever else was going on in my life then are bleary or nonexistent.  I know I hugged my children close, and I thanked God (I admit) that neither of them was the one diagnosed.  Everything else is a blur. 

My feeling is that I was very honest with my children, who were then just 7 and 8 years old.   I wanted to be realistic, and I have never intentionally lied to them.  I didn't want to gloss over this precious moment. I wanted them to have a chance to appreciate her in the way we do when we realize the preciousness of life. 

I'd handle it all differently now.  My mother devoted her last nine months to living, while I spent them preparing for her death.  Who was the wiser?   I didn't then have the spiritual training nor the prayer technology I use now to give me the skills to do anything else, so I don't 'blame' myself.  And yet I do still wish I had done some things differently.

I considered all of this as I drove home from seeing my 'adopted' mom, our Grandma Jan, the woman we had hired to be my mother's caregiver, just before Mom's passing.  Though her care giving was short-lived, as Mom passed a few days later, her acceptance into our family was permanent.  My Mom had insisted to the end that "I don't need help!" Yet she embraced Jan's assistance.  I feel certain that this was my mother's way of saying she was not abandoning us, that she was leaving us in the tender loving care of another mother, another grandmother, another Beloved. 

Grandma Jan told me today that the doctors think she has cancer.  Her doctor doesn't know what kind or where in her body for sure yet.  More tests are needed.  I considered waiting to tell my family until she knows for sure.  After all, it has yet to be confirmed, and why worry them? 

Then I knew what I had read this morning was no accident.  A lie is a lie, even if it is by omission.  So I told my children what little I knew about Grandma Jan's condition and that this is our opportunity to do something very powerful for her ~ to pray into knowing that God is Well-Being, that we are all One with God, that Grandma Jan is infused with the very Well-Being that God is, that there is a divine plan for Grandma Jan ~ and for us.  It was such a relief to let go of the heavy hopelessness of the "don't get their hopes up" theme.  It was so powerful to offer, instead, something that we can always do, the one thing that gets us through the worst of the worst: to pray. 

It occurs to me, then, that the biggest reason not to lie to my children about weighty matters is because it would be a denial of their experience, their contribution, their call to action.  A child's prayer resonates with the ardor and purity of one who knows the Truth.  Who am I to deny Grandma Jan the power of such prayer?  Who am I to deny my child the opportunity to contribute his or her own wisdom, tender loving thoughtfulness, and prayerful Presence to a situation that concerns them deeply?  Looking back, I am glad I invited them to pray.  You can rest easy, Grandma Jan.  The children's prayers are IN.


Thursday, June 14, 2012

Success Made Simple

As we part, I tell Loren I’m headed out to the shoe repair shop.  “Which one?” she asks.  Although I always go to the same one, there are two shoe repair shops near where I live, the two within a block of each other.  I’m always surprised they both survive, given the rising cost of rent in Los Angeles and the small amount they charge for each repair.  I tell my friend that I always go to Harut’s.  She makes a face.  “The other guy is so much nicer,” she says.  “I like getting the curmudgeon to smile,” I say, “it’s my personal challenge.”

A few days passed before I actually made it to Harut’s to present my claim check.  He takes it and asks simply, “what color?”

 “Black.  A black bag,” I say.   

“A BAG?  Hmmmph.”  He shuffles to the back, while I contemplate the heaps of shoes, some of the styles dating back several decades. I’m wondering how he ever manages to find anything, when he promptly reappears.   He shows me the claim check and points to the date. “10-25-2007?” I say, “No, that can’t be right.  I just dropped this bag off a couple of weeks ago.”  I prepare myself for another of his lectures about how long it takes some people to pick up their repaired items. 

When I look up, he is grinning ear to ear.  “No!” he says, “I found this in the bag when I fixed it!”  Then it dawns on me what he is saying.  I brought this same bag in to Harut for repair nearly five years ago, and the claim check is still in the zippered pocket.  I am a loyal, if rather infrequent, customer.  We both laugh, and, Harut high fives me.   

It’s not until I’m out the door and halfway down the street when I remember my conversation with Loren.  It occurs to me that I’ve realized a personal best.  Not only did I get Harut to smile, I made his day. 

Thinking about my encounter with Harut today, I have to say that the Universe does have a sense of humor.  Lately, I’ve been chastising myself for not doing enough to realize my business and personal goals.  I set the intention, I can see the desired result, and I can feel it, but if I don’t see it happening, I start laying into myself for not doing more.   Today, the Universe has shown me just how unnecessary and unproductive all of this chastising really is.  Although this is a simple example (“my goal is to get him to smile”), I achieved it with flying colors without fretting over the details, wondering how it would come to pass and beating myself up for not doing enough. 

I am reminded what I’ve often heard “Abraham” (as channeled by Esther Hicks) say:  It is important to understand that it is not by virtue of your action….that you are creating. You are creating by virtue of the thought that you are offering.”  I do think about making Harut smile, whenever I have something to be repaired.  I drop by his shop, whenever I’m nearby, at a time he is open.  I don’t schedule a time for it, I don’t make a plan for how it will happen, or even put it on my vision board.  I just set the intention and go about my business.  I realize now that’s how easy it can be, when I stop making it all so much more difficult.  So I’m putting the whip back in the barn, and I’m enjoying the much more pleasant task of noticing all of the many small miracles in my life.  Today, getting a curmudgeon to smile is at the top of my list. 

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The Big School

My heart skips a beat whenever I drop my my twelve-year-old son off at school in the morning, and he sneaks a look over his shoulder at me, as he walks away, and makes the faintest gesture of a wave good-bye.  It’s the barest acknowledgment, and yet a clear demonstration of the depth of his feelings, the expression of which is no longer cool.  They are slowly being buried deeper and deeper beneath the stoic, reveal-nothing demeanor of a Tween. 

We recently took Cameron to the orientation at the junior high school, which, here in Eagle Rock, is on the same campus as the high school.  The Eagle Rock Junior/Senior High (ERHS) campus appears huge and confusing after elementary school, even one as large as Eagle Rock Elementary which hosts about a thousand students.  This junior-senior high school is so different than the schools I attended in the Midwest that I’m challenged to wrap my mind around what it would be like to attend this big school at the tender age of twelve.

There are about as many students on this campus as there were in the high school I attended, although it was just a three year school and this one has six grades.  The ERHS campus, however, is much more spread out than either my junior high or senior high schools were.  My schools were contained in single large building, likely due to the more severe weather where I went to school, so finding one’s way around campus was not as daunting.  The classes at the campus here are spread out among the main building, numerous bungalows, far-flung boys’ and girls’ gymnasiums, and the swimming pool in the city park across the street.  ERHS students traverse distances between classes nearly as great as I did in college.  Whereas my schools were surrounded by rolling green hills and trees, this campus butts snugly up against the residential neighborhood that surrounds it. 

ERHS is an International Baccalaureate World school, and the academic program is rigorous.  There are no breaks in the day for such things as home economics, industrial arts, or typing classes.  Students at ERHS have four classes each day, alternating each day, a schedule which will surely prove to be an organizational challenge for an absent-minded professor like Cameron.  It seems like a lot to take on at twelve, and I wonder whether we are pushing kids to grow up too fast. 

I ask Cameron if he’s ready for this challenge, if he’s excited to go to the Big School, and he says, simply, “yeah.”  His effort to contain his enthusiasm, however, fails when the corners of his mouth turn up ever so slightly.  I know he’s excited.  He has always wanted to be treated as if he is older than his age, and I think this school and this program will give him what he wants.  He’s been at the same elementary school for seven years.  He towers over the little kindergartners, and he sails through the obligatory testing.  I know he’s ready.

I know I will cry when he graduates from the elementary school.  I know I will cry when I first drop him off at the Big School.  I know I will cry when I drop his younger sister Chloë off at the elementary school alone for the first time; they have been at the same school for six years now.  I also know my children will wish that I wouldn’t cry.  Not in public, anyway.  For them, the only thing worse than showing any emotion themselves is to be seen with a PARENT who is openly and publicly displaying their feelings. 

Once upon a time, I, too, learned to suppress my own expression of emotions, to protect myself from hurt and to avoid drawing attention to myself.  I am now at place, unfortunately for my children, perhaps, where I want to reconnect fully with all of the emotions that come with experiencing the highs and lows of Living Life.  It doesn’t always feel good, and when it hurts, I remind myself what Jim Rohn says: “The walls we build around us to keep sadness out also keeps out the joy.”  If I want joy, then I have to accept the whole package, the happy along with the sad.

It occurs to me that we, my tweens and I, are on parallel and opposite tracks.  Like the Angel’s Flight funicular, we perfectly counter-balance each other as we move at equal speed in opposite directions, the weight of each one’s car powering the other’s.  We wave as we pass by in the middle.

I don’t know if Cameron will sneak a look over his shoulder at me when I drop him off at the high school next year.  Maybe he will think it’s time to give it up, now that he’s at the Big School.  Maybe he will continue it out of habit.  I hope he does.  I know that I will cry either way.  And I know that either way is perfect.

Monday, May 14, 2012

The Rose of Compromise

“When the vase comes to you, select a rose that represents your Mom, one that reminds you of her.”  I survey the types and colors of roses in the vase, as it goes around the circle.  There are roses of many colors, but only one red, and I know for certain that it is meant for me to pick.  My dad always gave my mother a dozen red roses for her birthday, and she wanted no other color.  The single red rose is clearly “our symbol.” One by one, a rose is selected, and the red rose remains in the vase.  Until the woman next to me chooses.  She reaches for the red, then hesitates.  I silently ‘will’ her to choose another color. She examines another rose.  Then she goes back to the red rose, and takes it. 
I feel lost.  What other rose will do?  I take the vase from my neighbor’s outstretched hand, and I review my options.  There is a pretty pink rose that would be my daughter’s choice.  There’s a gorgeous coral rose that would be my choice.  And there are some white roses.  I select one of the white roses.
“Write down how this rose represents your mother.”  Hmmph.  “It’s not red!” I write.  I consider more thoughtfully the rose I’ve chosen, and I remember that my mother loved subtle earthy colors like eggshell, beige, taupe, white, and caramel in her home décor and in her wardrobe.  There is a redeeming quality to this rose, I realize. 

“Write down how this rose represents you.”  Hmmph!!  I look over at the brilliant coral rose that I would have chosen for myself, which is now in someone else’s possession, and I think “but that’s the rose that represents ME!”  Turning back to the white rose in my hand, I consider it once more .  “This rose isn’t what either my Mom or I would have chosen,” I write.  “This is a rose of compromise.”  It occurs that that, perhaps, that’s what this rose is about.  It represents all of the compromises I’ve made in my life, trying to make her happy while at the same time trying to do what I feel is right for me. 
I study it further.  I realize that, even though it’s not what I would have chosen, I do like the rose.  The edges of the petals are curly and it looks girly.  It’s a creamy color, not just “boring old white.”  It’s opening and welcoming.  I like this flower, for its own flower’s sake, when I’m not saddling it with connotations and representations.  I think my mother would like this rose, too, as she liked to be surrounded by soothing tones. We had very different opinions on many things, she and I, and yet we always, eventually, found common ground. 

The word ‘compromise’ carries a connotation of “pleasing neither.”  It occurs, to me, however, while contemplating this particular rose, that a compromise is more about encompassing the space of shared agreement, the place where two circles overlap, than it is about defining the area of discord or dissociation.  This rose of compromise represents the space where my mother and I met on common ground.  And we still do. She is telling me that her spirit meets me where and as I am, without judgment, without disapproval.  This rose is now the most beautiful Mother’s Day gift I can imagine. 

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Where do the Great Ideas Go?

Where do the Great Ideas go, the outrageous ones that come in the night, and land on me with the weight of an anvil, thrown into a bank of fresh snow?  These Profundities, they are so vivid and stirring, seemingly perfectly aligned with my Soul.  I'm sure, in the moment, they are with me always, encoded in my biology, great Truths that I will always Know.  So certain am I, they cannot cease to be, I give in to my laziness and  make promises to the Great Muse.  I swear that I'll write in the morning, when I am fresh, clearheaded, and not feeling diffused.

Yet when I awake, the Great Ideas have vanished, gone without a trace, like a vampire at dawn, leaving behind only a feeling of something lost, a wondering, a doubting if they ever existed at all. 

Are the Great Ideas nocturnal?  Do they exist only in the dark?  Are they like earthworms, thriving in moist, fertile darkness and shrivelling in sunlight?  Are they real or imagined?  Were they ever as profound as they seemed in the night?

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Contemplating my Calluses

Leaning over my feet in butterfly pose in yoga class this morning, I noticed that the calluses on my big toes have grown much larger than I had realized. TMI? Truly, it's not an opening line I ever thought I'd write for public consumption. Nor one that I ever would have thought would trigger yet another round of grief.

Looking at my toes today, however, I was instantly transported, out of yoga class, out of Eagle Rock, out of today, to a park in Huntington Beach in 2004 when my mother and I were tending to our blistered feet. We were doing the 3-Day Breast Cancer walk from Orange County to Los Angeles, and looking back, I am amazed that we were able to pull it off.  My mother had recently moved to Southern California from Kansas City to be near her only grandchildren, the ones she never thought she'd have because for twenty years I told her that I wasn't interested in being tied down to children the way "her generation" was.  Her 95-year-old mother, who she told me "couldn't be moved," had come to California with her and required constant care. My children were one and two years old then, and they thought they couldn't possibly live without Mommy for an entire weekend. We hadn't lived in our community very long, and we didn't have any backup support network. So the fact that we're able to do this walk at all is a miracle.

My mother and her mother are both breast cancer survivors, though, and so I have convinced her into making this journey. Like all momentous decisions, Heaven and Earth did move to support us.  We eked out precious hours to train for walking twelve hours a day for three days to cover 65 miles. Although my mother hasn't camped since her Girl Scout days (and never had any desire to do so), she had acquired equipment to sleep in a tent at night. After commencing the walk, my mother realized that a medication she just started taking requires her to hit the port-a-potties at least once an hour. We had walked through soaking rain on that second morning, after her first night of not sleeping well in the tent, and all of our rain gear was packed away in the gear truck. It's the most unlikely scenario I could ever have imagined for my mother and myself. It's a most unusual and unexpected time in both of our lives.

By noon of our second day of walking, when the sun had come out, we rejoiced when we finally, finally hit the lunchtime stop. We grabbed food from the mess tent and headed straight for the first open patch of soft, sweet grass. Although we'd invested in the most advanced sock and shoe technology available, our feet were throbbing from the mad rush of blood, frantically trying to get in and repair the damage. We rip the expensive, constricting shoes from our feet. We compare the size, width and shape of the most interesting of blisters. We assess whose feet have sustained the most damage.

"Look at this one," my mother says, "look how purple it is!" In comparison to my feet, however, her feet appear smooth and polished to me. She says, "I'm glad I got a pedicure just two days ago, to treat myself for doing this walk, because look at my poor feet now!" I gulp.

I had done a 3-day walk with my husband a few years prior.  One of the coaches told us then, "This is not a time for fancy pedicures. You build up those calluses to protect your feet during the training. Keep them for the intense 3-day experience." Had I not shared that with her during our hours of walking?? I feel guilty for not.

I was in my early forties when we did the walk. I had moved from Kansas City to Los Angeles when I was twenty-nine, and my relationship with my Mom was frozen in time from that point. Despite my move across country, my marriage, my ten-year law career, and the birth of my two children, I still felt like her child, her "kid." I was still reluctant to share anything with her that might imply I know more than she does. I didn’t yet feel that I have 'permission' to say anything that might sound like a criticism of what something she has done.

I mustered the courage and said, "I purposefully left my calluses alone because I figured they would help protect my feet." She frowns at her feet, and sighs. "That makes sense," she said. In that moment, I knew our relationship has changed.  It was a simple truth, and yet I knew then that I had my own wisdom and my own voice.  That picture of her holding her foot, in that park, on that day, is etched in my mind.

My mom made her transition five years later, at a time when my children, her beloved grandchildren, were just eight and nine years old. As sad as I was for my own loss, I felt exponentially more sad for my children. I know how much my mother cherished them, and it pains me to think that they might not remember her.  I make it a point to tell and re-tell favorite stories about her, so that they will remember.

They have their own memories of her, too.  "Do you remember when Grandma Leutjen would bring you here?" I ask. One of them will say, "Yeah, we always sat in that booth over there and we played Junior Monopoly while we waited for the food to come.  Grandma always got a chocolate coke."  I'm surprised by the level of detail, and then I realize it's like any memory: it's the unusual, surprising, different nature of any event that stands out, that causes us to etch it indelibly, ready to pull out for review at a moment's notice. I suppose it's a survival instinct to catalog and store information about what's out of the ordinary.

My Mom was plenty unusual, surprising and out of the ordinary. When I was a teen-ager, I wished she would just "be normal,” in the same way as my kids now hope and pray that I will not do anything to attract undue attention.  

Now that she is gone, I am glad that she was not “just normal.”  Our memories of her uniqueness have etched indelibly and are available for review upon a moment's notice.  We remember her as she was, not as we might have wished her to be.  It’s her essence and legacy to us. "Always be true to who you are," I can hear her say, "blending in is boring."  My mother was many things: loving, funny, smart, wise, and, creative. She was, above all, memorable.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Stopping for Coffee

My friend asks if we can get something from Swork, our local coffeehouse, before I drive her to the appointment with her radiologist.  "Sure," I say, "would you like to go in and make it a real 'outing,' or shall I pick it up?"  She prefers that I pick it up, and I agree.  While I'm standing in line, however, I am reminiscing about all of the times my Mom wanted to stop for coffee on the way to and from her many doctor appointments.  It could be a hundred degrees outside, but she wanted her coffee, and she wanted to go out somewhere to get it. 

My mom's insistence on going out for coffee drove my frugal sister crazy. "Why pay all that money for something you can make at home?" I pointed out that she always insisted on going to places that offered a discounted price for seniors.  Still, I had to wonder myself, why she'd want to go out when she was so sick.  I mean, coffee is easy enough to make at home.  She occasionally got a chai or an iced mocha, but usually she ordered plain black coffee.  She had a maker with a timer, and I could easily have set it to brew for her.  She never wanted me to do that, though.  She liked to go out.

Standing in line today, I get it, I grok it. My mom steadfastly refused to believe that she was terminally ill, right up to her last day on Earth in this lifetime.  She wouldn't talk about dying, and she refused to listen to anybody else talk about it either.  Her 'stopping for coffee' routine kept her connected to her old life, her 'normal life.'

Growing up, I remember my mom sharing long hours of conversation over countless cups of coffee at the homes of friends and neighbors ~ long before coffee beverages carried Italian monikers and presented numerous options of strengths, flavorings, and brewings.  The neighbors offered only cream or sugar, and stories of kids gone wild, husbands gone to drink, and life savings gone to tax collectors.  To my Mom, sharing coffee meant sharing life.  And she counted herself among the living, the boldly and enthusiastically LIVING, up until the day she died.

And, so of course, she drank coffee even when she was very sick, but wished herself well.  I'm honored and grateful that I was so often the one she chose to share coffee with, in those waning months of her life.  Connected by coffee, we are.      

I am my mother's daughter, and I do love to sit with friends over a steaming mug of Mexican mocha latte.  Today, I gladly delivered coffee to my friend.  And I look forward to the day when she is up to going out for coffee. 

Sunday, April 8, 2012

(Not so) Tough Mom Love

My eleven-year-old daughter is throwing a two-year-old tantrum.  I know it’s because she is very tired.  We all stayed up too late last night.  I’m telling her she must get up, on a Saturday, during Spring Break, to go to a class on a day when her good friend in the class can’t go.  I’m torn.  On the one hand, I understand she is tired, and I am sympathetic.  I bristle at the insistence of our society to keep going, going, going, and do, do do, while ignoring the cues from our bodies that say rest, rest, rest, simply because we’ve made commitments for certain things on certain days at certain times.  If we don’t show up at these appointed hours, we’re considered slackers, failures.  I so wish that we could live our lives in accordance with what our bodies, minds, and spirits want, not feeling so dictated by the artificial human constructs of time and calendar.

And yet I realize the power of setting intentions and making commitments.  I believe that honoring our word is vital to our integrity, to our well-being, to our success in life.  I want my children to have the discipline to function and succeed in the world we’ve chosen for this lifetime, with all of its artificial constructs of time and space.  So I tell her to get up anyway, that she has made a commitment that she must honor, and to get dressed OR ELSE.  She glares at me through angry, slitted eyes, and I know she is plotting some revenge.  She stomps. She throws things. She cries in the car on the way to the class.
I am so close to caving.  I am not good at tough love.  My children are such amazing, interesting people that I truly would like to be their friend more than their mother…sometimes.  I know that’s not my role, and I must continually review the roles of Mother v. Friend in order to keep my decisions, my conversations, and my guidance clearly on the parent side of the fence.  It’s not easy, and I often wonder whether I’m entirely successful.

I tell myself, as I often do, that if my children wanted a perfect Mom, they should have chosen someone else; and that we have come together, with all of our weaknesses and challenges, for a Divine Purpose, that none of us showed up here for a perfect life, and we learn more from each other’s stumbles than we do from the waltzes. 
After class, my daughter is all smiles, and the fury has been forgotten - though she does squint in a way that dares me to bring it up.  I smile back, relieved of making any more tough mom choices.  For now. 

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Spring Cleaning

When I was first diagnosed with acid reflux (“GERD), many years ago, I was presented with a list of hopelessly unworkable instructions as “raise the head of your bed”- which is impossible when you sleep in a waterbed.  Equally hopeless was the admonition to “avoid coffee, chocolate, spicy foods, and wine.”  I told my doctor that THAT was impossible, too, “because those are the foods that make life worth living!”

I’m on a cleanse now, and, of course, none of those things are allowed.  I think back to that statement and wonder that I would ever have said such a thing.  Can foods really make life worth living?? Of course, that was a long time ago, before kids my kids were born, back when I was stressed-out career woman, and Friday night happy hour was the highlight of my week.

Fast forward a decade, when I was in the midst of one of the most stressful times of my life.  I had gained forty pounds in a short period of time because of the way I was dealing with (or not) all of the stress.  A friend suggested a cleanse, one as restrictive as the one I’m on now, and I was horrified.  I said it sounded “too mean,”  that such a cleanse sounded punishing, when I wanted nurturing  - and my concept of “nurturing” came in the form of comfort foods and wine. 
Fast forward a couple more years, after a couple of trips to Rapid Care because of stress issues, and I finally did my first serious cleanse.  It still felt ‘punishing,’ but also felt good to reconnect with some sense of discipline, to exercise some control over my own choices. 

I’ve done a few more cleanses since the first one, and each time it feels a little less ‘mean’ and more like the true nurturing I’ve been seeking all along.  Each time, I lose one more layer of attachment to food as comfort and entertainment and get one step closer to regaining a connection to food as sustenance and nutrition.
And yet I confess that my greatest temptations remain those very same foods that I once said “make life worth living.”  I don’t know if I will ever not want them at all.  I could make a meal of them right now, if I gave myself a chance.  And yet I know I have gained a lot of discipline and some fresh perspective. 

Appreciation fuels my resolve.  I’m not turning my back on all of the sweet treasures that life in this human form offers, but expanding my appreciation of them when I do indulge.  Rather than shoveling them in, without a thought, on a regular basis, I savor every bite on those rare occasions when I allow them. 
I’m also expanding my definition of the “sweet treasures” life has to offer to include kale chips, green smoothies, and sautéed Swiss chard.  I may never enjoy an herbal tea as much as a mocha latte, but I do know that some re-programming is happening.  It feels powerful to be able to make choices, rather than feeling helpless in the presence of a margarita or a donut.  Just don’t tell me to give up the waterbed because that is so not happening!

Friday, March 9, 2012


My friend told me recently that he hasn't been active in his business lately; that he's been woodsheddin'.  I had never heard the term before, but I knew what he meant instantly. I've spent some time in the shed myself.  In fact, I think it's good thing to do, every now and again.  When I'm not feeling my ax is as sharp as it could be, I like to hole up for awhile and sharpen it up. 

It occurs to me that is exactly what I want to do today.  I've been running from one thing to the next for awhile, and it's time to recharge.  I have but one appointment today, a rare occurrence, it's the full moon release cycle, and I'm on a cleanse.  The starts have aligned! So today I'm woodsheddin'.  I'll be back when my ax is sharpened. 

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Acting My Age...

Looking around this focus group panel for the plug-in hybrid car market research study, I am surprised to see that there aren’t any younger people.  Everyone here is in the age range of 50-69.  Why is that?? Do the auto manufacturers think that only people who are over 50 will buy a plug-in hybrid car?

Listening to my fellow panelists, I don’t think that’s a safe assumption.  They are saying “it’s not a proven technology,” and “too much trouble to plug the car in every day.”  I am the only panelist who currently owns a plug-in car.  Comparing my responses to theirs, I think I must sound pretty “out there.”  I’m saying “I LOVE IT!” and “sign me up for the next level of this technology as soon as it’s available!” They are focused on cost, and whether there is a payback.  I’m saying “the fuel economy is just one factor; minimizing my impact and caring for my planet IS my payback.” Add the feathers I’m wearing to the mix, and they are probably thinking I’m a total flake.  Which I, of course, take as a total compliment.
It doesn’t occur to me until I get home that this particular panel was carefully crafted to capture only the 50-69 year old age group.  The youngsters were probably questioned before we even showed up.   I slap myself in the forehead.  Of course, the market researchers would group people by age for their surveys, and, of course, it makes sense to question people in neatly-divided age groups.  DUH!

My next thought, however, knocks me flat.  I AM IN THE 50-69 AGE GROUP!  When did this happen??  I remember gasping when the gray-haired stodgy at the end of the table said he was 52.  I thought, “How can that be?  He’s so much older than I am!”  The calendar may say he’s only two years older than I am, but I feel a lifetime younger than he is.
In fact, I feel YOUNGER now than I ever have in my so-called adult life.  It’s not reflected in the image I see in the mirror, haha, but it’s how I feel: more playful, more light-hearted, more carefree.  I’ve given up carrying the weight of the world on my shoulders; no longer feeling somehow responsible for every “bad” thing that happens, and feeling victimized by the caprice of the gods.  I’m more likely to sing a random lyric in the grocery store, tango in line at the post office, or cackle-laugh at a wholly inappropriate time ~ much to the chagrin of my tweenage children. 

I know it’s been a long time coming, that I’ve done a lot of Work over the years, and yet there was something magical about turning 50.  Since then, I’ve been shedding the fear, worry and guilt like a snake in constant molting season mode.  It’s been freeing ~ to be released of the weight of that responsibility which really isn’t mine ~ while Knowing the Absolute Truth of the divinity that each of us is.  Whether that fits the profile of a 50-60er...well, I like to think that it does.  And the opportunity to embarrass my tweens is just a bonus! 

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Suspicious Palates

Emptying the dish of homemade tartar sauce, left uneaten because it wasn't pristinely white like store-bought, it occurs to me to ask, "when did homemade become suspect?" I do recall a time when homemade food was highly prized, and the store-bought versions found wanting; when a homemade roast or pie was met with an approving sigh of admiration and expectation. I feel certain that this must still be true in some households, the child-free households and in those homes where the children have more refined tastes.

In mine, however, my children eye the homemade croutons suspiciously and ask, "did you MAKE these?" and then they are pushed to the side of the bowl. The offer of homemade waffles, the kind I used to make from scratch when they were toddlers, full of whole grain and organic ingredients, are now greeted with a "no, thanks. Do we have any frozen?" My homemade soups are met with scorn, and they willingly heat their own bowl of canned.

I suppose part of the appeal of packaged food lies in the Uncertainty Factor which is a characteristic of my cooking (and one which I inherited from my mother). While my mother-in-love creates dishes which are identical in appearance every time she prepares them, there’s a good deal of uncertainty in how anything I prepare will turn out “this time.” Growing up, “well, it tastes good,” was our family meal-time motto.

For my son, especially, absolute consistency in appearance seems to be his most reliable means of determining whether or not he will be comforted ~ or nauseated ~ by his next bite. Frozen pizzas and mac & cheese  always and reliably look ~ and taste ~ the same. My cooking…not so much. And given the inherent variability of fresh fruit and vegetables, they must be very carefully inspected to avoid unwelcome surprises. New species and varieties are shunned.

My doctor says that the food kids eat between birth and age three determines their long-term food preferences. She says that adults can and do 'recover' from their junk food habits of the teen years, if their earliest food experiences consisted of healthy choices. I hope to goddess that's true because they ate nothing but organic cereal, and homemade baby food at those ages. So I dearly hope, pray, and trust the day will come when they long for the good ol' days of blanched kale and pureed quinoa. Just when will that kick in? I don't know. I can only hope that my organic, plant-strong, pescatarian diet, daily exercise regimen, and conscious living will allow me to live long enough to see it!

Saturday, January 28, 2012

What now, 2012?

Welcome to 2012! It's that glorious time of year when I get to start fresh, wipe the slate clean, and set intentions for....well, frankly, all of the things I intended to do, but didn't, last year. Sigh. Last January, I spent hours tuning into my heart's (and soul's) desires and made the most beautiful Vision Board that, frankly, I have ever seen. I meditated on each area of my life, from business to Spirit, and from my relationship with my husband to my relationship with this beautiful Blue Planet. Even now, I admire the accomplishment.

And even now, I'm anguishing over the "un-achievements." Sure, there were things I did do, just as planned (though I must admit that many were "calendar-inspired," as in just completed in the waning days of December). However, their number is paltry compared to the number of things I did not do. I reviewed my intentions throughout the year, so it's not like I just forgot about them. I faithfully copied them from planner page to planner page, always holding a place for them in my heart.  And that's where most of them seem to have died. Wah.  What's the point of all this goal planning if I'm not going to follow through????

Indeed, the process of the 2011 review process was so painful, in fact, that it has taken me all of these 28 days of 2012 to come to terms. What I’ve come three main realizations:

1. The best fertilizer for growing something beautiful is crap,

2. 2011 provided ample fertilizer,

3. and what I intended in 2011 ~ and “failed” to complete ~ is starting to show up, in very tenuous but concrete ways, in this first month of 2012.

Why is it starting to break loose now? Is it because of the flip of the calendar page? Because I continuously held them in my heart? Because of the momentum of the last-minute ‘get-it-dones’ of December? Because of the self-work I did in 2011? Because it’s a year of transformation? Bcause of ALL OF IT???

IDK. I do know that I get to release the idea that divinely-inspired intentions should manifest within a calendar year. I know that the goals and intentions I’ve set are timeless, boundless. And that I’m grateful to sense Movement and Manifestation. And the more I gratitude I feel and express, the more I realize and receive. And so…

Thank you, 2012. Thank you, me. Thank you, ME.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Does this Blog Matter?

I seem to be taking a break from blogging.  I didn't intend it; I didn't intentionally stop posting one day.  I still write daily or almost daily....I just found myself reluctant to post... wondering if what I write is really intended to be posted out on the world wide web.  I had thought I was blogging to make connections, expand my world, share my experiences with peeps who might also be wondering, "is anybody else feeling this"?

And yet, by all appearances, my only devoted readers are members of my family, those beloveds whom I could, just as easily, email my thoughts to them separately.  Is my desire to blog, to post Big Thoughts out into the World, really an egoic attachment to being recognized for my self-proclaimed brilliance?  I have to wonder.   Does this blog matter to anyone but me?